Never was there a question what Darrell White would become when he grew up.

"I had such a rich and fun and rewarding experience as a student in public education it seemed the natural thing for me to do," said White, who rapidly climbed from schoolteacher to administrator to college professor and superintendent in his 39-year education career.Now, the Davis superintendent has captured a new title: Utah Superintendent of the Year.

White, selected for the award through the Utah Education Coalition, was announced as the state's top leader of schools last week by the Utah School Superintendents Association. Soon, he will join superintendents from throughout the nation to address educational issues in Washington, D.C., where a national superintendent of the year will be named.

"He's been an advocate for teachers and students in our district," said Kalyn Denny, president of the Davis Education Association teachers union. "He's the kind of person who's not ego-invested . . . he's just in it for the outcome."

Known in educational circles for his collaboration, wisdom and school finance expertise, White's career sprouted at Weber High School, where he taught social studies.

"It was great, just absolutely exciting," said White, who attended Ogden schools in his youth. "My commitment has been and always will be students and their welfare."

One year later, White taught at the new Bonneville High. And after just two years, he became an assistant vice principal at the school. While he longed for the classroom, White found he remained a teacher - of adults.

"It took three or four years to adjust and realize that as an administrator, I was still a teacher. Once I made the adjustment, I enjoyed administration as much as teaching," said White, whose superintendencies span 18 years.

White also broadened his teaching circles to higher education, spending 20 years as an adjunct professor at Utah State University, where he received his doctorate degree. He also has instructed at the University of Utah during his superintendencies at Sevier, North Summit and Box Elder school districts.

But the Hansen Planetarium board member set aside college instruction when he took the helm of the growing 56,000-student Davis School District, where he netted one of the accomplishments for which he is most proud: the district Technology Advancement Plan, aimed at infusing technology in the classroom.

The $5 million plan includes 27 school technology specialists to help teachers implement technology in the curriculum, boosting school technology and a central help desk for technical support to keep schools online.

"Darrell White . . . is a committed educator who has contributed significantly not only to Davis School District but to all of Utah," Barbara Smith, president of the Davis Board of Education, said in a prepared statement.

White's education advocacy resonates in lawmakers whom the former executive director of the Utah School Superintendents Association has worked with over the years.

"He has empowered leaders to implement visionary plans, to work aggressively to help students reach quality education goals," said Sen. David Steele, R-West Point, who also works for Davis School District.

White also is congenial, wise and surrounds himself with excellent staff members, said Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful. Legislators turn to him for advice, leadership and recommendations.

"He's just held in high regard . . . you can really count on what he says is straight-forward and honest," said Allen, director of the Davis School District Foundation. "He's just very deserving of this honor."